What’s The Best Plein Air Easel? Top 5 Portable Easels Reviewed

what's the best plein air easel

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Are you an artist looking for the perfect plein air easel to take your art practice outdoors?

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, having a reliable and portable easel that is easy to set up can be the difference between a care-free painting session or a ton of headaches…

With so many options on the market, deciding which is worth the investment can be like trying to find the diamond among the rocks.

To help you in your search, I’ve scoured thousands of reviews and artist blogs online and discovered some of the most popular options available to you. As a fellow artist and outdoor painting enthusiast, I’ve also tried many myself.

Below, I’ve come up with a list of 5 Top-Rated plein air easels for traditional artists.

Let’s dive in and explore these incredible top picks!

The Top 5 Best Plein Air Easels Compared



Product Details

#1. MEEDEN French Easel

meeden french easel

The best french easel for portable storage 



Overall rating: 4.8/5 

  • Keep everything you need in one place with this french easel.
  • Beautiful wood finish that screams elegant.
  • Can withstand the wear and tear of regular use, providing long-lasting reliability.
  • Comes with a wooden palette so you don’t have to buy your own
  • Easily transform it into a tabletop easel

#2: New Wave u.go Plein Air Pochade Box

new wave u.go plein air pochade box

Best plein air artist easel for the small paint studies



Overall rating: 4.7/5

  • Take the easel anywhere; inside or out
  • Small and compact, best for small painting studies
  • Easily portable and SUPER lightweight (at 2.1 lbs). 

#3: VISWIN French-Style Easel

VISWIN french style easel

Best plein air easel for professionals 



Overall rating: 4.7/5

  • Never worry about a crooked horizon line ever again with the built in leveler
  • Keep the easel in place with non-skid, rubber-tipped feet
  • Easily portable and storage accessible
  • Easily transform it into a tabletop easel

#4: Advanced Series En Plein Air Pro Watercolor Package

advanced series en plein air pro watercolor package

Best plein air easel for watercolor



Overall rating: 4.7/5

  • Stable easel.
  • A palette shelf for easy access of paints, including an area to place a water bucket (within reach).
  • Easily portable.

#5: RRFTOK Aluminum Metal Adjustable Easel

RRFTOK aliminium metal adjustable easel

The best budget-friendly french easel alternative



Overall rating: 4.4/5

  • Take the easel anywhere, inside or out.
  • You can adjust the height of the easel to your preference up to 66 in. tall.
  • Easily take it from one place to the next.
  • Super Lightweight.

In-Depth Review of the Top-Rated Plein Air Easels

Based on the custom criteria of functionality, appearance, storage, and cost, let’s closely examine each product’s unique strengths and weaknesses.

The Meeden French Easel:

best french easel


Overall Rating: 4.8/5

Type: Traditional French Easel

Material: Solid Beech Wood

Color: Walnut

This is the best french easel for storage because of its large two-tray storage area. Store your painting materials and essentials, such as your palette knives, paint tubes, and perhaps even a small glass palette.


  • Two-layered storage with easy access to your paints and paintbrushes
  • Easily take it from place to place
  • Use it standing or sitting down
  • Highly adjustable, and can hold a canvas up to 34” tall
  • Beautiful wood finish.


  • Awkward set up due to leg mechanisms.

This easel is best for both beginner and professional artists who like to work with medium sized canvases and do so in style.

New Wave U.go Plein Air | Anywhere Pochade Box

easyl pochade box


Overall Rating: 4.7/5

Type: Pochade Box

Material: Birch Wood

Color: Brown

The best easel for the traveling plein air painter because it’s small and compact.


  • Easy to carry around because it’s SUPER lightweight at just 2.1lbs
  • Great for small paint studies because it only holds small canvases
  • Use it standing or sitting down
  • Great for travel because it can fit in any suitcase or bag.


  • Attachments (like a tripod) must be purchased separately.

Compact and easy to carry around, this easel is perfect for the plein air painter on the go.

VISWIN French-Style Easel

best easel for oil painting


Overall Rating: 4.7/5

Type: Traditional French Easel

Material: Solid Beech Wood

Color: Natural

This plein air easel boasts distinctive features such as built-in level and a ruler scale located on the leg of the easel.


  • Two-layered storage with easy access to your paints and paintbrushes
  • Easily take it from place to place with a shoulder strap
  • Use it standing or sitting down
  • Highly adjustable, and can hold a canvas up to 34” tall
  • Comes with a wood palette so that you don’t have to purchase one separately.


  • Awkward set up due to leg mechanisms.

Accurately depict the horizon line with this easel. It’s perfect for the plein air painter who wants to avoid unevenness and distortion in a painting.

Advanced Series en Plein Air Pro Watercolor Package

best plein air watercolor easel


Overall Rating: 4.7/5

Type: Plein Air Kit: Easel + Brush Tray + Plastic Palette

Material: Aluminum

Color: Silver

This is the best plein air watercolor easel because the stand and attachments are explicitly made for watercolor artists.


  • Easy set up due to minimal parts
  • Easily take it from place to place with the included carrying bag
  • Adjustable legs so you can paint at whatever height you feel comfortable standing or sitting at.
  • Paint palette and bucket included so you don’t have to purchase them separately.


  • Expensive.

This easel includes art supply attachments that pair perfectly with the plein air watercolor artist, including a water bucket and a plastic mixing palette.

RRFTOK Aluminum Metal Adjustable Easel

tripod easel for oil painting


Overall Rating: 4.4/5

Type: Easel Stand

Material: Aluminum

Color: Silver

The best budget-option easel because it only runs between $20-$30. Bonus: it’s super simple to set up with only 3 pieces.


  • Compact carrying
  • Easily take it from place to place
  • Use it standing or sitting down
  • Holds canvas up to 38” tall with an adjustable canvas holder.


  • Isn’t super sturdy.

This easel is super simple to set up and easy to carry around with the included carrying case. It’s perfect for the beginner plein air artist.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Plein Air Easel

Plein air french easels and other plein air easels are designed to be easy to carry around and lightweight, making them ideal for painting outdoors. When picking the right easel for you, here are a few key considerations to keep in mind before painting en plein air.

factors to consider when choosing your plein air easel

Weight and Portability

You wouldn’t want to drag around a 20lb easel to and fro (unless you were looking to bodybuild as you paint). Your ideal easel should be less than 15lb and easy to carry (a strap or handle is the best option).


The last thing you want while your painting is for your easel to fall to the ground. Consider an easel with adjustable legs or a wide base to provide stability on uneven ground, or use weights as an alternative.



Some plein air painting easels adjust up to nearly 40in. Consider how large you like to work before choosing your easel (how large of a canvas will the canvas holder fit). If you want greater flexibility for painting positions.


Consider how often you’ll be using your easel en plein air. The easel should be built to withstand years of use, and outdoor conditions, like wind and excessive amounts of sunlight. High-quality materials usually equate to longer-lasting easels.


Ease of Use

The easel should be easy to set up and take down. Something difficult to put up could affect your painting mood.


This final factor is also one of the most important.

It’s okay if you can’t afford an expensive easel upfront. While a high-end easel may offer more features and strength, many affordable options still provide excellent performance.

Accessories and Attachments That Can Be Used With Plein Air Easels

When you purchase a plein air easel, you’re not limited to just the easel alone. Many easels offer other attachments and accessories that enhance your plein air painting experience even further.

You can also purchase:

Palette Boxes

palette boxes

Palette boxes are great for keeping your paints in an easily accessible area. They come in different types, including clamp-on, tripod-mounted, or easel-mounted.


  • Palette holders allow you to keep your paint and mixing area at a comfortable and easily-reachable height.


  • Some holders can be bulky and heavy, making them difficult to transport or attach to your easel.

Umbrella Attachments

umbrella attachments
(Image Source)

Keep your paint damper for longer by keeping your artwork out of direct sunlight with an umbrella attachment. They come in many different sizes and styles, and some even have flexible joints.


  • Umbrella attachments are nearly essential for painters in hot weather, as they provide ample shade and reduce glare. They also help protect your artwork from heavy wind, sand, and other elements.


  • Some umbrella attachments may be too heavy or bulky, adding extra weight to your easel. Not all of them are adjustable.

Carrying Cases

carrying cases
(Image Source)

Whether it’s a backpack, shoulder bag, or a hard case, carrying cases are a great way to transport and store your plein air easel and accessories.


  • Carrying cases protect your easel and supplies during transport.


  • Some carrying cases can be bulky or heavy, making them difficult to carry long distances. Not all easels will work inside a case.

Common Plein Air Artist Mistakes and How To Overcome Them

So you took the initiative to buy a plein air easel, but where do you start? A more important question: what do you avoid doing?

Setting up on Uneven Ground

Even if you’ve found the perfect spot for your en plein air painting, disaster is sure to strike if the ground is uneven.

Find a flat piece of ground to work on, and you’ll be good to go (no accidents to see here).

setting up on uneven ground

Dealing With Wind and Weather Conditions

Dealing with changing weather conditions is crucial for plein air painting. While some artists bring clamps to hold the canvas or paper in place in windier conditions, others have “sandbags” to put on the base of their easels to prevent them from blowing over.

You can even find water-fillable sandbags that are more convenient to carry than traditional alternatives.

Novice plein air artists might not check the weather forecast before heading out. One minute the sun is shining, and the next minute clouds roll over, and you’re being rained on.

To protect yourself and your artwork, always check the weather for the day and bring appropriate attachments to keep everything secure.

Adjusting to Changing Light

This is something that always comes up when discussing plein air painting: how do I maintain consistent shading in plein air paintings despite changing lighting conditions?

adjusting to changing light

There are 4 possible solutions:

  1. You paint your work in less than an hour (or at least strive to).
  2. You mark your shadows and highlights immediately (and stick to those shadows no matter how the light changes).
  3. You go early in the day to choose your spot, and as you develop your plein air painting until near completion, wherever your highlights are at the time is where you reflect them on the painting.
  4. You take a picture of your space for further reference.

With more practice comes better consistency, but don’t be upset if your work looks different than when you first started. Consider inconsistencies part of the territory, and keep improving.

FAQs About Plein Air Easels

What’s the Difference Between a Plein Air Easel and a French Easel?

difference between a plein air easel and a french easel

A French easel is a specific type of plein air easel that is compact and includes storage for painting supplies, while a plein air easel is a more general term that can refer to any type of portable easel designed for outdoor painting.

What Is the Best French Easel for Beginners?

The aluminum adjustable easel is a great easel for beginners. It’s simple to set up and adjust, with clear instructions and minimal parts.

what is the best french easel for beginners?

What Materials Should I Use to Clean and Maintain My Plein Air Easel?

Depending on what medium you choose to paint in, the materials you should use to clean your easel can vary from water for watercolor painting, mineral spirits for oil painting,

Why Should I Invest in a Plein Air Easel?

A plein-air easel is an essential tool for artists who want to paint outdoors or enjoy painting outdoors and want to create a high-quality plein air painting.

It provides a stable and adjustable platform to hold your canvas, allowing you to paint comfortably and with increased accuracy.

Using a plein air easel also eliminates the need to balance the canvas on your lap or hold it by hand, providing a more comfortable and professional painting experience.

why should I invest in a plein air easel

The Best Plein Air Easel for Plein Air Painting

Whether you’re a professional artist or just starting out, the Meeden French Easel is a fantastic tool for plein air painters who love painting outdoors. The Meeden French Easel combines practicality and beauty all-in-one, making a wonderful accent piece in any home.

It’s built to last and withstand all kinds of use and wear, and given that it’s well taken care of– can be passed down to the next artist in the family who loves to paint en plein air.

The Meeden French Easel is not only a light weight easel that provides ample storage space, it also comes with an included large wooden palette and a shoulder strap for easy carrying.

Whether you’re planning a long outdoor painting session for yourself or at a plein air convention, or even a quick “wet paint” or “alla prima” exercise, the Meeden French Easel is a perfect choice for any artist and for that reason earned the #1 spot.

The runner up is the New Wave u.go Plein Air Pochade Box.

The New Wave Anywhere Pochade Box is great for small studies, SUPER lightweight at 2.1 lbs, and can fit anywhere you put it, but attachments (like a camera tripod so that you can stand while using it) are sold separately.

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